Dog Owners Iced Out Of Biased Planning Process For Santa Barbara Pet Ordinance
Please Contact Supervisors Before May 6 Public Hearing
by JOHN YATES
American Sporting Dog Alliance
SANTA BARBARA, CA- The Santana Barbara County Board of Supervisors has set a May 6 public hearing on a proposed mandatory pet sterilization ordinance as the culmination of a biased and flawed planning process that pointedly excluded advocates for dog ownership rights.
The result is a stacked deck based only on the preconceived notions of animal rights activists and their allies in the sheltering and rescue communities.
Because of this bias against the real stakeholders in this issue (that is, people who own, raise, breed or compete with dogs), the entire justification behind the proposed ordinance has been invalidated.
The American Sporting Dog Alliance urges the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors to scrap this biased effort and start fresh with a fair and balanced investigation into pet population issues at the county’s three municipal shelters. Only then would it be appropriate to search for effective strategies to solve any problems that may be found.
A strategy based on biased findings is doomed to failure, and will involve the supervisors and county residents in a pointless, bitter and divisive controversy that will end up before the courts.
As an alterative to rejecting the ordinance outright, we asks the supervisors to create an animal control advisory board with balanced representation of all interested groups within the community, and then to charge this board with examining pet issues and recommending solutions based on the facts.
Current recommendations contradict the facts contained in a 2006 report to the supervisors, and advocacy for mandatory pet sterilization is based on an “Old Boy Network” of animal rights activists and supporters. This report will examine this network and the flaws of its preconceived conclusions.
The irony of this situation is that Santa Barbara County has one of the very best animal control programs in the nation by any measure of success, and that the purported goals of a spay and neuter mandate already are being accomplished with truly praiseworthy success. This is not just our opinion. This is the conclusion of the lengthy report sent to the county supervisors in March 2006 by the same people who now are crying out that the sky is falling.
The American Sporting Dog Alliance also is urging all dog owners from Santa Barbara to play an active role now through contacts with the Board of Supervisors, and attendance at the May 6 hearing. We also are asking all of our members and supporters to lend assistance to Santa Barbara County dog owners in any way they can.
Santa Barbara is in the eye of the animal rights storm. Several national and California animal rights groups, such as Judy Mancuso’s pro-mandate movement, have launched a massive email campaign to bombard the Supervisors with their extremist agenda. Mancuso played a major role in failed legislation last year calling for a statewide spay/neuter mandate.
The Santa Barbara ordinance has been on the table for more than a year, and has been the subject of serious planning and discussion in recent months. This process has been almost entirely “under the radar,” and has been dominated by animal rights activists who are philosophically opposed to raising or breeding dogs.
Ordinary dog owners, people who raise, show or compete with dogs, and hobby breeders of purebred dogs, have not been invited to the table. Dog owner advocacy groups, breed clubs, local dog clubs, and canine registries also have been effectively iced out.
The president of the Channel City Kennel Club was invited to the group’s first meeting, but was not asked to come back after she said she opposed the ordinance. Mary Ann Morrison, a former Santa Barbara resident who now lives in Colorado, has played a major role in drafting the ordinance. While she breeds and shows dogs, and belongs to the club, her position on the ordinance has been disavowed by the organization.
What this means is that the regulated parties in the proposed ordinance have been effectively denied the ability to participate in the planning process that leads to the May 6 hearing. Even though the vast majority of Santa Barbara County dog owners would be severely and adversely affected by the ordinance, their ideas, opinions and knowledge have been cut out of the process.
It further means that only organizations that are philosophically opposed to the beliefs of the regulated parties have had a voice in crafting the new ordinance.
How could this happen?
It happened because animal rights activists have discovered how to use quasi-official backdoor strategies to stack the deck against animal owners. In the case of Santa Barbara, the action seems to center around individuals closely associated with national and statewide animal rights groups, rescue movement activists, and animal shelter employees. Shelter managers who echo the national animal rights agenda have been in control of the entire process, and also have written the proposed ordinance.
In theory, the May 6 public hearing is supposed to begin the process of seeking input from everyone in Santa Barbara County. However, a proposed ordinance already has been drafted and submitted to the supervisors.
Instead of being part of the process, dog owners thus are reduced to a defensive role of arguing against the existing draft. A letter in the supervisors’ agenda package describing the hearing shows that the same people who excluded dog owners from the process now are put in charge of seeking public comment.
A summary in the Santa Barbara County supervisors’ agenda tells how this animal rights “Old Boys Network” works, and also who wasn’t invited to the table. It also says clearly that the conclusion was accepted before the study began.
“For a number of years, concerned community members, animal volunteer groups, and animal services professionals have expressed interest in a local spay/neuter ordinance as a means of reducing the number of unwanted animals currently housed in animal shelters and elsewhere in the Santa Barbara County.
“As a result, the Animal Services program of the Public Health Department in collaboration with animal volunteer groups from across Santa Barbara County, undertook research on spay/neuter ordinances in other jurisdictions with the objective of bringing a local spay/neuter ordinance to the Board of Supervisors for consideration. An ordinance has been drafted and County Counsel has reviewed the initial draft. The goal of the local ordinance is to reduce pet overpopulation and arrest the growth of the associated costs.”
Their “study” had a predetermined conclusion – the ordinance, which was admitted in the above announcement – and thus completely failed to meet tests of objectivity.
The first thing the study group overlooked was their own municipal animal shelter, where the stated goal of reducing shelter populations already is being accomplished in dramatic fashion.
Between 1990 and 2005 (the last year for which complete data is available), the number of dogs entering the Santa Barbara municipal shelter fell by 33-percent, and the number of dogs euthanized dropped by 58-percent, according to official data submitted by the county to the California Department of Health Services. The trend is continuing at an even more rapid annual rate, the data shows. Between 2002 and 2005, the number of dogs entering the shelter has declined by 14-percent, and the number euthanized by 24-percent.
In any other endeavor, those kinds of statistics would be used as evidence of overwhelming success. Instead, animal rights groups that have a larger agenda are trying to convince the county Board of Supervisors that their efforts have failed, and sterner measures are needed.
A March 2006 report to the supervisors clearly shows the bias of the current recommendations.
Over a 10-year period, the county’s human population grew by 7.7 percent, while the number of animals entering the shelter decreased by 15% and euthanasia rate fell by 50 percent, the report said.
“The accomplishment of the drastic lowering of the number of animals being euthanized in the county shelters is a commendable achievement that the staff and volunteers are very proud of,” the report said.
We concur, as does the evidence shown from other counties profiled in the report.
No other county in California can match the success of the Santa Barbara animal control program, and we know of no other county in the nation that has done a better job.
The measure of this success goes beyond the animals. It includes fiscal responsibility, costs of operating the system, increases in non-tax shelter revenues and donations, and the involvement of many caring people and organizations in the county. The report conclusively demonstrates success on all counts.
Less than six months later, the same people who reached that conclusion changed their tune. Success was turned into crisis, and suddenly a sterilization mandate was promoted and passed in the City of Lompoc (located in Santa Barbara County), even though that branch shelter was a major part of the success story in the March report.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that the nation’s largest animal rights group, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), appeared frequently in the county during this period, through consulting work at shelters, giving a national leadership award to Santa Barbara state legislator Pedro Nava, praising Shelter Director Jan Glick for her work on issues ranging from wild horse rescue to dog fighting investigations, and working closely with activist and local veterinarian Dr. Ron Faoro on failed statewide mandatory spay/neuter legislation.
HSUS has nothing to do with local humane societies or helping animals. Instead, it is a national political lobbying group that pushes the animal rights agenda. Its head, Wayne Pacelle, has been quoted repeatedly expressing opposition to animal ownership and breeding in any form.
Santa Barbara shelter officials suddenly began to claim that there was a crisis requiring a mandatory pet sterilization ordinance, even though contradictory evidence was – quite literally – barking in their ears.
A key figure in the Santa Barbara “Old Boys Network” is County Animal Services Director Jan Glick. Glick is a major player in the unofficial group that is pushing for this ordinance, and reportedly is the person who played the lead role in drafting it.
Although the March, 2006, report to the supervisors praised her work, by August, 2006, Glick was singing the HSUS tune of “pet overpopulation” and pressure was put on Lompoc local officials to enact a city spay and neuter mandate. In mid-2006, Glick pushed Lompoc officials to adopt a mandatory pet sterilization ordinance, and indicated strong personal support for the concept in an August 17 letter to City Administrator Gary Keefe.
Glick informed Keefe that County Health Department Deputy Director Michael Harris directed her to “convene a work group” to study an ordinance mandating pet sterilization “as will be implemented in Los Angeles County….” The draconian Los Angeles ordinance will be a model, she wrote to Keefe. The American Sporting Dog Alliance gained access to this correspondence.
The “work group” was and is the “Old Boys Network” that excluded dog owners, breeders, competitors and associations that represent them.
The work group also is a classic example of how the bias of personal belief can distort and falsify the facts to reach a preordained conclusion. It has been obvious since August, 2006, that the conclusion was going to be a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance, and the facts were not going to get in the way.
In defiance of both fact and logic, the work group concluded:
- That there is an overpopulation of unwanted pets in the county that is of crisis proportions – despite the documented success of the animal control program in Santa Barbara County, and despite Glick’s demonstrated superb managerial ability in the program. It appears that Glick has discounted her noteworthy professional achievements as an administrator in order to push for her personal beliefs.
- That this alleged problem is caused by unwanted puppies – despite abundant documentation that almost no puppies enter the shelter system. In fact, the California Veterinary Medical Association has concluded that it is almost impossible to find an adoptable puppy at any shelter in California. Puppies are so rare that the Los Angeles shelter has been criticized in news reports for auctioning them off to the highest bidder for as much as $1,000 apiece!
- That dog breeders cause the alleged overpopulation and should be regulated and restrained – despite the overwhelming evidence that hobby breeders and people who raise purebred dogs almost never contribute to shelter populations. Research has shown that the inability to find homes for puppies ranks 10th on the list of reasons why dogs are taken to shelters.
- That mandatory sterilization will make an improvement in shelter admissions – this ignores the conclusion of the 2006 Santa Barbara County report that the current program of voluntary pet sterilization, combined with existing low-cost and no-cost clinics and local programs, will allow the county “to accomplish 100 percent adoption of adoptable and treatable animals…by the Year 2010,” which is only two years away. It also ignores the fact that a reported 66 percent of the dogs entering California already are spayed or neutered.
- That mandatory pet sterilization is a viable strategy – despite overwhelming evidence that it has backfired in every community that has tried it by causing increases in shelter admissions, higher euthanasia rates, greatly increase animal control costs, and much lower compliance with licensing requirements.
- That spaying and neutering is beneficial to the health of pets – despite a preponderance of recent research that concludes that health risks may outweigh the benefits, especially if sterilization is done at an early age. A recent survey by Rutgers University of the 50 latest peer-reviewed research findings concluded that there are significantly higher risks of several serious and potentially fatal conditions.
- That shelter admissions indicate that many dogs are not wanted by their owners – despite research conclusions that eight of the top 10 reasons are that wanted pets must be given up because of social reasons (landlords, job moves, divorce, etc.), and data that shows up to 30 percent of the dogs entering the shelter are brought there for the specific purpose of euthanasia because of untreatable illness, severe injuries or old age.
- That adoptable animals in Santa Barbara County cannot find homes – when, in fact, an American Sporting Dog Alliance investigation documented that thousands of pets are imported into Santa Barbara County every year to meet the insatiable demand for adoptable pets in rescue shelters. These imported dogs often are brought in to California from distant states and foreign countries.
- That current programs are not working – despite ample data in the 2006 Santa Barbara report that shows little enforcement of current regulations. In 2004-2005, animal control officers made only 414 license checks in the county and issued only 855 citations for unlicensed dogs, dogs that were allowed to roam, and rabies vaccination requirements. This shows only a minimal attempt to enforce existing laws and ordinances. Although the report didn’t mention it, there is a high probability that many of these citations were issued at the shelters, when people reclaimed impounded pets.
Animal ownership advocates maintain that mandatory pet sterilization laws have nothing to do with reducing the number of dogs entering or killed at animal shelters, but instead are part of the animal rights agenda to drastically reduce the number of dogs in society as a major step toward the eventual elimination of dog ownership.
The biases and factual errors contained in the Santa Barbara work group’s recommendations for a spay and neuter mandate point strongly to this hidden agenda.
This hidden agenda also is shown by comparing the current recommendation to the numerous recommendations contained in the 2006 report to the Santa Barbara County supervisors. None of these 2006 recommendations included a mandatory pet sterilization ordinance.
In looking at what is happening now in Santa Barbara County, it is impossible to ignore the presence and influence of Dr. Faoro, a prominent local veterinarian who has achieved national stature with animal rights groups for his advocacy of mandatory spay and neuter laws.
Faoro is the former president of the California Veterinary Medicine Association (CVMA), and used this position to place the organization in support of legislation for statewide mandatory pet sterilization.
Faoro’s actions created an immediate firestorm of protest from veterinarians, and the association subsequently reversed his actions and then completely disavowed them.
San Diego practitioner Dr. Patricia Ungar described the result of Faoro’s animal rights stance: “CVMA at this point ought to feel uneasy because they’re partnering with groups that have known PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) connections.”
According to Ungar, a poll of regional veterinary medical associations throughout the state revealed a majority opposed the pet-sterilization mandate and CVMA’s sponsorship of the initiative.
“CVMA was out of line doing what they did without consulting members,” she says.
Dr. Charles Hjerpe, professor emeritus of veterinary medicine at the University of California, Davis, also led the opposition among veterinarians. Dr. Hjerpe is a member of the American Sporting Dog Alliance’s veterinary advisory board.
Hjerpe wrote that Faoro and his cronies “helped to write a controversial bill in secret, without any input from rank and file CVMA membership, or any broad consultation with the animal lovers and their organizations that would be adversely impacted by the bill.”
The same tactic that was used on the statewide legislation now is being used in Santa Barbara County, with similar results.
Writing about the statewide legislation, Dr. Hjerpe wrote: “The bill proposes to deprive more than half of the citizens of California of what to believe, and have every right to believe, is a basic civil and constitutional right: that every citizen has the right to decide if they want to spay or neuter their animals and, if so, when they would like to do it. CVMA has jeopardized the reputation of the entire veterinary profession, by supporting a piece of legislation which has enraged millions of animal owners and promises to enrich one segment of the veterinary profession. Now that the legislation you have helped to create has been hijacked by some of the most extreme elements in society, CVMA remains absolutely silent, aloof from the problems and concerns of ‘the huddled masses’ and, seemingly, powerless or fearful to try to ‘fix’ anything. Meanwhile, thousands of rank-and-file veterinarians and animal lovers are being forced to become involved in things that we hate doing: writing letters to politicians, rallying support from breed organizations, meeting with our elected representatives and attending legislative hearings.”
The evidence is clear: The campaign for a mandatory spay and neuter ordinance in Santa Barbara County shows an extreme bias toward the animal rights agenda, and completely excludes opposing viewpoints and contradictory information from the process and recommendations.
The American Sporting Dog Alliance urges dog owners to contact the county supervisors to request an immediate halt to this process. We believe that the ordinance should be scrapped as being without merit. Barring that, the only reasonable alternative is for the supervisors to create an animal control advisory board to study the issues and make recommendations, and to assure that membership in this board fairly and evenly reflects all viewpoints and interests in the community.
Here is contact information for the supervisors (faxes or phone calls are more effective than emails):
- lst District: Salud Carbajal, Chair – Phone: 805.568.2186, Fax: 805.568.2534, E-mail: SupervisorCarbajal@sbcbos1.org
- 2nd District: Janet Wolf -Phone: 805.568.2191, Fax: 805.568.2283, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- 3rd District: Brooks Firestone – Phone: 805.568.2192, Fax: 805.568.2883, E-mail: email@example.com
- 4th District: Joni Gray – Phone: 805.737-7700 or 805.346.8407, Fax: 805.346.8498, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- 5th District: Joseph Centeno, Vice Chair – Phone: 805.346.8400, Fax: 805.346.8404; E-mail: email@example.com
- Also: Michael Allen, Chief Deputy Clerk of the Board, 105 E. Anapamu, Rm 407, Santa Barbara, CA 93101 – Phone: 805.568.2240 Fax: 805.568.2249, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The American Sporting Dog Alliance represents owners, hobby breeders and professionals who work with breeds of dogs that are used for hunting. We are a grassroots movement working to protect the rights of dog owners, and to assure that the traditional relationships between dogs and humans maintains its rightful place in American society and life. Please visit us on the web at http://www.americansportingdogalliance.org.
The American Sporting Dog Alliance also needs your help so that we can continue to work to protect the rights of dog owners. Your membership, participation and support are truly essential to the success of our mission. We are funded solely by the donations of our members, and maintain strict independence.
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